Lisa Leslie joins Sparks' owners

Lisa Leslie is adding another first to her involvement with the WNBA.

Less than two years after retiring, the nine-time All-Star and three-time MVP is coming back to the Los Angeles Sparks as a part-owner.

Leslie was one of the first players -- along with Sheryl Swoopes and Rebecca Lobo -- to sign with the league after its formation in 1996. She was the league's first player to dunk in a game, the first to reach 6,000 career points, and now she is the first former WNBA player to invest in a team.

"I have 'the first' attached to my name in a whole lot of different aspects when it comes to the sport of basketball," Leslie told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Los Angeles on Friday night. "So, I'm enjoying being the first and I'm sure I won't be the last because I think it's sort of the responsibility we have as former players to try to continue to grow the sport of basketball."

Leslie joins the team's ownership group that also includes chairperson Paula Madison and investors Kathy Goodman and Carla Christofferson. The Sparks, who officially made the announcement during halftime of the team's game against Tulsa in Los Angeles, did not disclose what ownership stake Leslie would have.

"Lisa has always been a member of the Sparks family, and we're elated to welcome her as a team investor," Madison said in a release. "Beyond her accomplishments on the court, Lisa is a savvy businesswoman and the epitome of grace and class."

Leslie, who said her investment in the team resulted from a "mutual collaboration" with the Sparks, will work on the franchise's marketing and community relations.

"I'm appreciative of all that the fans have done for me and this is also my way to give back to them," she said.

The four-time Olympic gold medalist starred in high school in nearby Inglewood and then at Southern California before spending 12 seasons with the Sparks from 1997-2009. She led Los Angeles to consecutive WNBA championships in 2001 and '02.

Leslie missed the 2007 season after giving birth to her daughter, Lauren, before returning for her final two seasons. She left as the league's top career scorer (6,263 points) and rebounder (3,307), and was second in blocks (822). However, she was passed on the scoring list last year by Tina Thompson -- the only player to have appeared in every WNBA season.

The Sparks' home court at Staples Center was renamed "Lisa Leslie Court" on June 23, 2006, and her No. 9 jersey was retired on Aug. 10, 2010.